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Jose Pallares

Other Orange County, California Exonerations
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On the night of October 11, 2003, police saw a young man and woman riding bicycles without lights near Clinton Street and Westminster Avenue, an area of Garden Grove, California known to be the home territory of the “Hard Times” street gang.

The police officers, in a marked squad car, attempted to stop the pair, but both fled. The male ultimately jumped off his bike and fled on foot. One officer saw him throw a handgun away. As the youth jumped over a fence, an officer yanked free a hooded sweatshirt that was wrapped around his waist. The youth managed to escape, but the gun and the sweatshirt were sent for DNA testing.

A few minutes later, the officers saw the young woman riding her bicycle several blocks away from where she and the young man were originally spotted. Police stopped her and she identified the male as “Javier” Pallares. She took police to the area where she said she believed Pallares lived, but he could not be found. The woman said she had met Pallares three or four times and that his name could have been either Javier or Jose.

One of the officers searched gang member databases and found a photograph of 18-year-old Jose Pallares. The officer recognized Pallares as the suspect who fled. The photograph of Pallares was shown to the other officer, who was with the young woman. That officer said he, too, recognized Pallares as the youth on the bike. However, when the young woman saw Pallares’s photograph, she began to cry and said that Pallares was not the person on the bike.

She told the police that Pallares was on probation, and that she and Pallares had the same probation officer. She said Pallares was associated with the street gang called “Big Stanton.”

On October 16, 2003, Pallares was arrested and charged with being a gang member in possession of a firearm. He admitted he knew the young woman, but denied he was riding a bike with her on the night of October 11, 2003.

Prior to trial, testing revealed a DNA profile on the gun and the sweatshirt, but it did not match Pallares. The profile was submitted to the FBI DNA database (CODIS), but there was no match.

Pallares went to trial in Orange County Superior Court in September 2004. The officers identified Pallares as the youth they saw throw the gun away. The prosecution argued that weapons in gangs change hands frequently, and it was therefore not uncommon to find the DNA profile of one person on a gun handled by another.

A mistrial was declared, however, when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, voting 11 to 1 to convict. On January 31, 2005, Pallares accepted an offer from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to being a gang member in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to two years in prison and released immediately after receiving credit for time spent in jail since his arrest.

In January 2006, the DNA profile from the sweatshirt and gun was matched in CODIS to another man, who was also a member of a street gang in Orange County.

Under the Orange County District Attorney’s Red Flag program, the various law enforcement agencies in the county report DNA database hits to the prosecution. If there are DNA matches involving pending or closed cases, the prosecution discloses the information to defense attorneys in pending cases and re-investigates closed cases.

The prosecution re-investigated the case when it learned that the DNA in Pallares’s case matched someone else. After the re-investigation, the prosecution concluded that Pallares was innocent and notified Pallares’s defense attorney. On August 1, 2008, the prosecution asked that Pallares’s conviction be vacated. The conviction was set aside and the prosecution dismissed the charge. No one else was charged because the statute of limitations on the original offense had expired.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/21/2017
State:California
County:Orange
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2003
Convicted:2005
Exonerated:2008
Sentence:2 years
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:18
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*